One of the great dramatic scenes of the Bible is depicted in today’s first reading. The people of Israel, after their escape from slavery and their long forty-year trek through the desert, are about to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land—what today is called the “West Bank.” Living in the new land will require many adjustments, adopting new customs and social practices to fit the new circumstances of settling down in their own land. So Moses, their leader, assembles all the people before him and details for them how they are to manage this climactic change and establish a new way of life.
It’s an imaginative portrayal and probably never happened in exactly that way. It may have taken a century or more to complete the adjustment period. But the Book of Deuteronomy gets the point across that the Law instructs the people how they are to live, what values they should hold dear and what behaviors they should put into practice. Today’s passage is the very end of Moses’ long speech, so Moses reminds the people that the Law will always remain right before them as a guide and a challenge.
In today’s gospel, Jesus will offer a dramatic illustration of what the Law means in practice. It is indeed a law we have every opportunity to follow and put into practice. All we have to do is notice all the people around us who need our help, no matter who they are or where they come from. And then respond.For our second reading, recall that there are a number of places in the New Testament that describe who Jesus is for us. Frequently, the words used were originally put into a song and the author is simply writing down the lyrics from the song. This is the case in today’s second reading. The first line sets the tone: Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God. It’s a beautiful way to contemplate the mystery of Christ.
—Walter Modrys SJ
This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.